The Parables & the Structure of the World
By way of showing the parabolic teaching of Jesus to be a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the Gospel of St. Matthew (13:35) cites a line from Psalm 77(78):2: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.”
The first half of this quotation, found in Matthew alone among the four Gospels, comes verbatim from the traditional Septuagint version of the Psalms, but no extant version of that text explains precisely where Matthew derived his wording in the verse’s second half. It is reasonable to think that he was quoting the psalm from memory, which would explain why he quoted it inexactly. However that may be, two expressions particularly stand out in Matthew’s wording of that verse: “things hidden” and “from the foundation of the world.”
First, “things hidden.” In the original Greek, this expression is a single word, kekrymmena, the neuter plural perfect passive participle of the verb krypto, meaning “to hide.” It is reasonable to think that Matthew’s use of the word here is related to the parable that he places immediately preceding this quotation, namely, the woman who “hid” (enekrypsen) the leaven in three measures of meal (13:33). In short, the parables have to do with things that are cryptic, concealed beneath the surface of other things. These hidden things are what the Lord speaks of in his parables.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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